Miami Beach police combed through the burned-out rubble of the Art Deco-style St. George apartment building on Thursday, where a fire killled two people, along with two dogs.
The two-story apartment, at 605 Euclid Ave., was evacuated early Thursday.
“I was sleeping. People woke me up, being noisy and trying to open our door,” said 22-year-old Ruben Veja, who lives in a second-floor unit with his parents.
Veja said one of the victims was a woman who lived on the first floor, in whose apartment the fire apparently originated. The other, he said, was a man in his 20s who lived in the unit above her.
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“We were talking just yesterday about the Heat,” Veja said, adding that the two dogs belonged to the young man who lived on the second floor. “And today, this. It’s crazy.”
The fire was contained to the first-floor apartment on the north side of the building, though the apartment above appeared to have sustained heavy smoke damage. Traces of flames could be seen going up to the roof of the lime green building with pink trim.
Miami Beach Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Otero confirmed that the victim on the first floor was dead when firefighters arrived at 12:39 a.m., four minutes after they received an emergency call. The other victim, from the second floor, was found in the hallway and taken to a hospital but later died.
Investigators have not found out yet whether he was trying to escape or rescue the other victim.
Two firefighters received medical assistance due to heat exhaustion, Otero said. One of them was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
“The heat at the apartment where the fire originated was very high”, Otero said. “Half an hour after the fire had been put out you could still feel the heat coming out the walls.”
The fire was put out in less than 10 minutes, he said, and all other residents escaped safely. “The building had undergone recent renovation and had good exiting”, he said.
Otero said it will be weeks before the cause of the fire is known as evidence collected from the apartment is examined.
One of the residents, Daniela Block, said the fire alarm was so soft that she could not even hear it. Block lives on the second floor and was one of the last to evacuate the building.
“My sister woke me up before she smelled of burning. We looked through the window and saw people telling us to come out,” she said.
The blaze displaced 19 people, South Florida Red Cross spokeswoman Patricia Rojas said.
“This is especially difficult because two residents passed away,” Rojas said, adding that Red Cross workers were on the scene to assist victims and to help residents relocate.